Tuesday, July 7, 2015


The last time I wrote, we had just gotten to Hanover, which we chose because it seemed like there wasn't much there to distract us from getting caught up on future plans. Well, we did have enough computer time, but Hanover fooled us by being quite appealing.

From Hanover we went to Herzberg, a small town in the foothills of the Harz mountains. We'd learned a few years ago about this place which calls itself "The Esperanto City", and it was actually quite interesting in that regard. Signs to various attractions are in both German and Esperanto; the names of trees around the lake are posted in German, Latin, and Esperanto; there's a big statue of Zamenhof, the founder of Esperanto, next to the post office, with a large Esperanto flag next to it constantly flying; some of the proprietors, such as at a Korean teahouse we ate at, speak Esperanto. The Esperanto Center has one copy of each of thousands of books, plus scads of magazines, similar to a Library of Congress.

The Esperanto Center in Herzberg has a full set of flags to greet visitors, and they flew the US flag in our honor.
Through Pasporta Servo, Petro, the man responsible for most of these features, put us up at an apartment donated by the city for visiting Esperanto volunteers. Our housemates were a man our age from southern Germany and a young fellow from Korea, both helping out at the Esperanto Center for a few weeks. The apartment had a kitchen, and it was nice to be able to do a bit of cooking, even if in a minimalist way. We had some good talks with Petro about the current state of affairs in Herzberg and Germany. One day he took us to a nearby town in the national park, to have lunch at a hotel run by Esperanto speakers. A lot of Esperantists are drawn there, and we spoke with one from Lyons, France; he was on his way to Copenhagen, where—by chance—he planned to stay with the same woman who's offered us accommodations there in September. Malgranda mondo (small world)!

Next we went to Berlin, where we stayed with Dennis and his wife and two young children. They live in a 6th floor penthouse with a nice view over the city. We spent an entire day seeing various parts of Berlin by foot and—using an all-day transit pass—by bus, tram, U-bahn, and S-bahn (always SRO on the last two). We saw the Brandenburg Gate, Tiergarten Park, Kurfürstendamm, the Holocaust memorial, a comprehensive exhibit about the Berlin Wall, and several less touristy parts of the city. Berlin didn't actually appeal to us very much—too gritty, too much graffiti, and definitely too much smoking. We decided that what we like in a city is: clean, no graffiti, no smoking, calm traffic, no honking, public transportation, locals seem happy, no tourists, vegan pubs, buskers, a lot of flowers or other color. One thing I did like in Berlin was all the families on bikes; even 3-year-olds confidently ride their bikes across busy intersections on the green light.

The Meine-Deine game
We enjoyed Dennis' children. The 2½ year old liked playing a game with Les, swapping his own cap and Les' cap back and forth, each time saying "Meine ... deine". He enlisted me to help play with a favorite train; he was always grabbing my wrist while insisting that I "Komm mit!" I'm always interested in features of the education system in other countries, and I learned that in Berlin it's typical for children to start all-day "kindergarten" (what we would call daycare or nursery school) at age one or two. It's thought to be good for them, more stimulating than being at home; I can understand that—no harried mother setting them in front of a TV in order to do the wash or prepare dinner.

We next headed to Leipzig for five days, which we'd been looking forward to for many months, because our dear friends live there. The original contact was Annelore, Les' first Esperanto penpal, and he visited them in 1988, 1989 (with Julie), and 1990. Annelore and her son visited us in Seattle soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall (a dream none of us had believed possible), and her daughter Anita lived with us for a few months while doing an internship at Fred Hutch, and has since visited with her two children. I finally got to Leipzig for the first time two years ago, so I already knew that our stay there would be like being at home in the midst of our long trip (we're almost at the halfway point).

Anita keeps track of the time in Leipzig, Seattle, and the town where her brother lives in Australia.
This is the 1000-year anniversary for Leipzig, so an exciting time to be here. We saw some interesting things: a huge exhibit on the history of the former East Germany, an exhibit about the Jews of Leipzig (part of Jewish Week), the new Metro. But mostly we enjoyed bountiful meals with Anita's family, starting with breakfasts each day of rolls, many kinds of cheese, tomatoes, Nutella, etc. One day the extended family gathered in Annelore and Werner's garden in nearby Wölkau, a fun time centered around even more eating, until we had to halt because of a thunderstorm. This was actually a relief because the temperature had been 95 that day. Conversations with the large group are interesting, because each person speaks varying degrees of English, German, and Esperanto, so there's a lot of side translating. We went with Annelore to the monthly Leipzig Esperanto meeting, and watched her weekly round dance class.

One evening we were concerned about a planned anti-Islam demonstration, which is apparently a regular occurrence that also brings out an anti-protest group as well as scads of police, clogging traffic around Anita's downtown home. But—perhaps because of the heat—only a small group showed up this time.

While biking in Bruges, my shoes got some grease on them. Anita and Werner (both doctors) cleaned up my shoe with ether in Werner's clinic (part of his house).
One day we took the train to Dresden for a few hours. Unfortunately, the 95-degree weather prevented us from enjoying it as much as we should have. On the trip down, we noticed a tourist steam train in Radebeul, so of course Les had to stop there on the way home to check it out. We spent two hours exploring this nice town.

Julie and Anita had been special friends, and Julie was also much beloved by Annelore; consequently her name came up very often, and we all felt like she was with us during our stay in Leipzig.

While we were in Berlin, Les' server at the boat stopped working. We'd gotten rid of all responsibilities, except for this one. It wasn't a major disaster, just a slight inconvenience for some of the people who use Les' Morse code program. With the help of our boat neighbor Dick, Les was able to diagnose the problem (a tripped GFI breaker) and fix it from afar.

We sent our second package home, this time a whopping six pounds. With weather in the 90s it was time to bag the long underwear, hat, gloves, and other warmish clothing. And some things that seemed like good ideas in Seattle turned out to be unnecessary. For instance, I never once used my little reading lamp because my Kindle has a built-in light. Live and learn.

We've had a good time in Germany. Tomorrow we take the train to Prague for a few days, and then to Martin in Slovakia. We're going to miss our "home away from home" in Leipzig.